League Setup: Keeper Leagues and Dynasty Leagues

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by David Gonos, Special Contributor

Published, 6/19/14


If you elect me President of the World, I’ll demand that every person that plays fantasy football will be forced to play in one traditional league, one IDP league, and one keeper league.


Anyone who’s playing in just one of those types of leagues is definitely missing out on a lot of fun, and really, isn’t that what this is all about? I mean, along with making sure everyone knows we know the most about football?


If You Don’t Play in Keeper Leagues, You Are Un-American!


Keeper leagues are to fantasy football what capitalism is to America! (I need to make that into a t-shirt.)


Anyway, when I say “keeper” league when I refer to all leagues that hold over some players from one year to the next. But in reality, a “dynasty” league is a type of keeper league, although a “keeper” league is not always a “dynasty” league. Got that? It’s the square/rectangle relationship principle.


“Keeper Leagues” are any league that holds over players (usually with a limited number) one year to the next.


“Dynasty Leagues” are leagues that essentially hold over entire rosters from one year to the next. There might be some limitations, like player contract lengths or large roster limits, but a dynasty league is essentially a Super Keeper League – more on Dynasty Leagues in a bit.


Both are great types of leagues to join, and all that play in them will find that they watch football a little different than they used to. While standard yearly leagues don’t care about youth and promise, keeper leagues are always interested in the touches given to backups and the players buried a bit on the depth charts.


How to Set Up a Keeper/Dynasty League

Whether you choose to run a traditional keeper league or a dynasty league, you’ll need to decide on a few things first.


1. Find Committed Owners


You think finding good owners for your regular league was tough? Wait until your keeper league is in Year 3, and you have a couple owners still holding over Chad Pennington and Clinton Portis. It’s very possible your current league can be converted into a keeper league, but understand that the weaker owners will likely just keep getting weaker, and eventually detached. 


A good place to start finding committed owners would be in leagues in which you’re currently playing. Then, ask fantasy players on message boards you visit, or players you follow on Twitter. Once you’ve figured out who your committed owners will be, then you have to keep them from year to year.


One great way to keep owners coming back is to have them pay one year in advance, so they have a vested interest in returning every season (or they could partially pay for the coming season). The partial pay method is my favorite because we set it up so that owners would pay 125%of the league fee each season, then in Season 4, there was a huge jackpot for the champions. This got some owners to build their team for a big run in Year 4.


2. Decide Just How Keeper-y the League Should Be


Once you decide to go with a keeper league, you’ll need to set just how deep you want the keepers to be.


Franchise Players: You could have each team announce one or two players that they get to hold over as long as they want. This ensures a very fresh draft from year to year, and it allows each team to get a good keeper or two every single season. If their keepers stink this year, they should be better next year, with a lot of great talent in the draft every summer.


Multiple Keepers: Teams could be allowed to hold over four to six players from year to year. The only problem here is that the yearly draft is now not as exciting, as most of the stars are gone, and you’re basically starting from Round 5 of yearly drafts. Even so, it’s a nice way for owners to hold over a couple stars and a couple promising players who could become stars.


Limited Keepers: You can have four to six keepers, but still ensure you keep a fully stocked draft by having a limited keeper league. Basically, you set up parameters ahead of time, like

·         Keepers are only allowed if they are taken after a certain round in the draft (make it an even round, so the first overall pick owner does not also get the first keeper pick). I like to use Round 8, but any even-numbered round will do.

·         A team gets to keep multiple players, but keeping a player means a team surrenders a draft pick, typically where the player in question was drafted. You can also adjust this rule (e.g. keepers cost a round or two higher every year, to disincentivize an owner from continuing to keep the same players every year).

·         For auctions, you could have 20% inflation for each keeper, so that a player that costs $30 this year, would cost an owner $36 next season, and $43 the following year.


Dynasty Leagues: Essentially, owners can keep their entire roster from one year to the next if they want. There could be some lower-end limits, like allowing them to keep just 10-15 players, but that would still be closer to a dynasty league than a traditional keeper league.

·         Contracts: One way to keep restocking the top of the draft with good players is to have player contracts. Each player is only allowed to be held over three or four years. A nice twist to add to this is that if a player is in his final year, he can be traded to a new team, and that team can then hold him over for another three years. Really turns the “trade deadline” into a fun time each season.

·         Free Agent Draft: I like to split up the NFL veterans from the rookies for dynasty drafts, but you could have all of them in one draft if you like. I think this way, it allows the worst teams to get the first pick in both, which should help them get better keepers for the next year.

·         Rookie Draft: This is the most exciting time of the offseason, as teams get a chance to add the best young players coming into the game. These drafts are typically not serpentine, but can become so if you wish. These drafts also can involve pick wheeling-and-dealing.


3. Decide Where to Play


Your leaguemates might already have a preference on which host site to use, or you might just roll over the current league you’re with, but you’ll have to make a decision on where you want your keeper or dynasty league to reside. If you plan on having a complex set of rules and some difficult keeper requirements, those might dictate which website you choose to play on.


For instance, for nearly 10 years, I was involved in an IDP Auction Dynasty League. We had player salaries, contracts, inflation, cut penalties, a slow online auction for free agents, a rookie draft with set salaries, doubleheaders every week (except for two weeks a season in which we had triple-headers) and “Franchise” and “Transition” tags.


In my experience, has the most customization options, but I’ve also enjoyed using keeper leagues on Both offer the ability to set contract years, and CBS has an option that allows owners to go in and check which players they want to keep as keepers, by a certain deadline, then all rosters would get wiped out – minus the keepers.


4. Create the Best Constitution Ever – and Be Ready to Change It


Sit down and do your best to write out as many rules you can think of. Too much detail is a good thing. You don’t want any ambiguities or leave any wiggle room with your rules. Be as harsh or as dictatorial as you want to be (don’t worry, you’re going to have other owners read it over and edit it back).


Understand you are trying to cut off any possible problems in-season. That’s the worst time for issues to arise, but it’s usually the time they always arise.


The rules sections you want to cover in the first draft of your keeper league rules:

·         Roster size

·         Keeper limits

·         Keeper cost

·         Abandoned Teams

o    In-season

o    Off-season

·         Trading

·         Draft order determination

·         Rookie draft


5. Trades Will Be the Toughest Thing to Manage


Trading in keeper leagues is much, much tougher to manage than in traditional yearly leagues because now you may have to decide that you know better about what the future holds than some owners.


If one owner who’s out of playoff contention trades one of his best veteran players to a playoff-contending owner who’s giving up a good, young player, draft picks, or a combination, the commissioner will be asked to decide if it’s a fair deal.


Without question, you will have more owners grumbling about trades that went through and trades not allowed to go through than any other aspect of your keeper league.


A suggestion: set up a three-man Competition Committee that reviews every trade. You can even have the league vote on who gets into the Competition Committee, but you’ll want to have very committed owners of whom you can get hold at any time.


Good luck on your keeper league efforts! This is the start of something huge! You’ll be tying together a group of people for the next decade if things go well, so do your best to iron out the issues before they arise.


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